Following the UK Government’s recent announcement that the High Speed Rail project HS2 will now go ahead, the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) says it will continue their decade-long campaign to protect the waterways from the worst effects of its construction and operation.
IWA has already achieved several changes to the project since 2010 but continues to be concerned about its noise impacts on many waterways and its damaging effects on some canal restoration schemes.
IWA celebrated a major victory in 2014 when it persuaded the Government to change the route of the Handsacre Link spur near Lichfield to avoid two crossings of the Trent & Mersey Canal which would have seriously damaged the environment, tranquillity and heritage of the canal around Woodend Lock above Fradley Junction.
Working in conjunction with Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, Lichfield Cruising Club and Canal & River Trust, it also secured assurances that HS2 will build a canal diversion and fund a replacement moorings basin at Cappers Lane in Lichfield when the bridge there is demolished for an HS2 viaduct.
The Government’s decision is to proceed with Phase 1 and Phase 2a of HS2 from London to Birmingham, via Fradley to Crewe, although it is not yet clear if this includes the Handsacre Link. The decision was based on the Oakervee Review report which clearly recommends removing this connection to the West Coast Mainline which would be costly to build and of limited use. Its route still passes close to the canal and the diversion of Wood End Lane there will be intrusive so we support its deletion from the project.
On Phase 1, IWA remains particularly concerned about the noise impact on the tranquil summit section of the Oxford Canal near Wormleighton.
Phase 2a will cross the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood on a viaduct right alongside the marina and IWA is represented on an advisory group which has produced a Design Principles document to help mitigate its construction and operational impacts. The group has also obtained funding from HS2 for environmental enhancement works that are likely to include towpath improvements.
Phil Sharpe, IWA Lichfield Branch Chairman and a member of IWA’s Planning Advisory Panel, said “Whilst many of these issues have affected the Lichfield area, IWA has also campaigned nationally by responding to the many consultations, attending exhibitions, meeting HS2 engineers and liaising with construction contractors. IWA has petitioned Parliament three times and given evidence to both House of Commons and Lords Select Committees on a range of issues including the need for better noise protection at all the locations where HS2 crosses or runs close to waterways.
“Keeping up with HS2 by reading all the reports and examining all the relevant plans has been a massive undertaking but we will continue to engage with all the HS2 public consultations and to campaign for better protection for the precious environment of our navigable and restorable waterways.”
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